Pope Francis Names Pakistani Cardinal In Controversial Move

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Shows A Shift In Attention To Pakistan

Pope Francis has named 14 new cardinals in the Catholic Church who will be confirmed in their positions during a ceremony on June 29, 2018. In keeping with Pope Francis’ style of recognizing individuals who make significant efforts on behalf of the church, he has named Karachi’s Archbishop Joseph Coutts as one of the cardinal-designates. The unusual part about this appointment is that the Archbishop Coutts resides in Pakistan, a country that has been less-than-welcoming for Christians, some of whom have complained about discrimination in the country based on their faith.

The primary reason that Archbishop Coutts, 72, has been named as a cardinal is due to his ability to bring together people of all faiths. Since his appointment to archbishop in 2012, Coutts has frequently attempted to promote interfaith dialogue so that people of differing religions are able to learn to respect and live with one another with regards to their unique beliefs.

The archbishop has repeatedly been recognized for his ability to get different religious communities within his diocese to speak with one another about issues facing their respective communities. According to reports, even local Muslim leaders have traveled to St. Patrick’s Cathedral where Archbishop Coutts presides to meet with Christian leaders on holidays such as Easter and Christmas. The archbishop’s willingness to continually promote harmony within the diverse community has been met with a great deal of openness. His appointment as cardinal has led to many within the nation to believe that greater attention will be brought to the issues and challenges facing Christians in Pakistan. 

Another reason for the archbishop’s promotion to cardinal could be to de-escalate rising tensions in the nation. The archbishop has spoken at length about some of the more radical elements of Islam that are threatening to encroach on the rights of Christians. 

“This is a problem that is affecting the whole country. This extremist, very fanatic form of Islam, which is not the Islam of the general population, is affecting not only Christians and other non-Muslims, but the terrorists are not sparing even Muslims,” he told UCANews. “They are targeting shrines and mosques. They have a different kind of ideology altogether and they are causing a lot of harm to the country.” 

Although the promotion of Coutts will come with the potential for improving relationships between religious groups in Pakistan, there is still a variety of troubles facing Christians in the country. Christians have been killed and imprisoned for apparent blasphemy for attempting to spread their faith, and the judicial system has not created a true feeling of security for the minority of Christians in the country. It is hoped that the pending promotion will increase tolerance towards the mere 2 million Christians who currently reside there, ultimately providing a greater level of dignity and unity. 

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